Congratulations, you’ve finally made it! After four years filled with studying, grinding on applications and cursing whoever invented the Common App, you’ve been accepted to Cornell! There’s just one thing though—you’ve been accepted as a First Year Spring Admit or FYSA (because higher education loves acronyms). Unsure what that means? Here’s the rundown from a FYSA three years into his Cornell experience on what to expect as a spring admit and some words of wisdom before you start.
So, what even is a FYSA?
As a FYSA, you’re like any other Cornell first-year —you’re just starting in the spring rather than the fall. You’ll have orientation with all the other FYSAs and move-in shortly before school starts in January. There can sometimes be a lingering feeling that you haven’t fully made it into Cornell. You wonder why you couldn’t have been accepted to start in the fall as you originally planned. If you’re like me and also got into Cornell off the waitlist, the imposter syndrome hits even harder.
That’s why it’s important to reiterate that you are a full member of the Cornell community. You’ve really made it, I promise. You’re not below anybody else. You’re just starting at a different time. Within a semester of attending Cornell, I forgot who was a FYSA and who wasn’t. What feels like a big distinction at first will fade over time. You’re just as brilliant, talented and generally cool as all the other awesome people on this campus. You’ll have to trust me on that one.
Socially…what’s the vibe? Am I not going to make friends?
This is the key question that tends to be top of mind for most FYSAs. If I’m arriving a semester late from everyone else, won’t everybody already have their friend groups? Am I going to be alone through four years of college? The short answer: No. I’m not here to say that being a FYSA doesn’t have social challenges. The reality is that, to some extent, you are going to be playing a bit of catch-up. Yet, from my experience, I know that you will make plenty of friends for a few reasons.
Firstly, you’re going to be grouped with a bunch of other FYSAs in the same situation. You’ll likely hang out together for your first few weeks on campus. And because you’re all in the same boat, friendships will be fast forming. Some of the people you meet in your FYSA class will become your closest friends. Others will be your classic O-week friends, you’ll hang out with them and be super close for a little bit but eventually lose contact as you find your own groups on campus. That’s normal and part of making new friends.
Secondly, you’re still going to meet plenty of other freshmen. Most people don’t find their close college friends during their first semester on campus. And regardless of year, people at Cornell are always open to meeting new people. If you want to make some new friends, you can strike up conversations in your classes, your extracurricular organizations and serendipitous 1 a.m.meetings while waiting for food at Nasties.
For someone who is more introverted, that might still sound a little intimidating since it entails, well, talking to people you don’t know. I empathize, as someone who is also more introverted. The good news is that there are a lot of introverted people on this campus who still need friends. It’s a healthy challenge to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little. Most of all though, if you’re very stressed about this—join clubs. I cannot emphasize this enough. Join them and you’ll meet people with mutual passions. That’s how I found most of my closest friends.
Thirdly, Cornell has a thriving transfer community. There are a lot more people in your situation than you may first realize. Beyond your ragtag group of fellow FYSAs, you’re also going to meet a bunch of people who may have just transferred in from other colleges and will also be eager to make new friends.
The larger takeaway here is that you’re not alone. Everybody worries about this type of thing, and as long as you put yourself out there and be yourself, you will find your people eventually. Make sure to give it time. There were moments during that first semester where I felt like I’d never find my own little group, but I did. It’s just something which takes patience. You’ll get there.
What am I supposed to do during the fall before I start?
My personal hot take is that having a semester off before you start college is low-key the best thing that can happen to you. Seriously. After working as hard as you possibly could for four years and suffering through Zoom fatigue this past year, you’re probably a little burnt out. You now have some time to do…literally anything you want.
A lot of FYSAs decided to spend a semester at another college before they started at Cornell. This allowed them to keep pace with the rest of their class starting in the fall, so they could graduate with them in the spring four years down the road. It also gave them a great chance to make some new friends and try out the college experience a little before going to their final destination school. If you go this route, reach out to Cornell about what courses will be accepted for transfer credit. You don’t want to take a bunch of classes only for none of them to count. If it’s important to you to graduate with the rest of your class, this definitely will be a strong option, but keep in mind, you still can do that without taking classes during your fall semester. I’m a double major who didn’t take any classes during that semester, and I’m still on track to graduate in the spring of ‘22. It can be done.
Other FYSAs worked for a few months before coming to Cornell. Whether that means an illustrious internship or a neighborhood job to save some money, working before your first semester can be a great way to build up your savings and gain a bit of experience along the way.
And then there’s the third category—not doing all that much during the fall before you start. What might sound like laziness could be the best thing for you. I was in this third category. I stayed home and worked on a longtime passion project—re-editing a feature film I’d made. I got it accepted to a small film festival, where it won an award. But that didn’t take eight hours everyday. I also spent a lot of time hanging out with close friends and enjoying a slower pace of life. That time spent relaxing and working on personal projects really grounded me before coming to college. It’s okay to genuinely take the semester off—you’re going to be working hard once you get to Cornell. You don’t already want to be running on fumes by the time you step foot on campus.
There’s no right or wrong choice here. My two cents is that whatever you choose make sure it’s something you legitimately want to do. For perhaps the first time in your life, you have a long block of time where you can basically do whatever you want. That’s an incredibly freeing opportunity. Take advantage of it. Have fun. Learn things about yourself. This is why being a spring admit can actually be pretty great—it gives you some extra time to do anything you want.
Okay, this all sounds super rosey… There’s got to be some bad stuff too, right?
As a FYSA there are definitely some annoying parts. In my view, none of the downsides are deal breakers, but you should make your own determination. The first thing is that you’re going to be starting school in the dead of winter. If you’re from somewhere cold this may sound silly. But if you’re like me and from somewhere like Miami, where the city shuts down if it gets below 85°, it’s brutal. Half of my orientation got canceled because we had a snowstorm in our first week on campus. It’s the inverse of trial by fire.
Secondly, you’re going to be in a weird place when it comes to your class year which creates a bunch of bureaucratic issues. This varies depending on your college. If you’re in Arts & Sciences, you won’t be able to reclassify your graduation, even if you’re on track to graduate with the rest of your class, until shortly before your final semester. That means for pre-enrollment purposes, you’ll be classified as a freshman when many of your friends are sophomores and so on when you’re enrolling for classes. You’re going to get boxed out of some you want to take as a result. In my experience, I still could take almost all the classes I’ve wanted, but it created a bunch of scheduling headaches because of how fast classes fill up during pre-enroll.
Moreover, it becomes complicated for applying to clubs and internships. Even if you’re a second year and de-facto a sophomore, you’re technically a freshman after your first semester, a sophomore after the following spring, and so on. It makes checking a box with your class year a bit confusing. The best advice I have on that is to just explain that you’re a spring-admit and mark whichever box is most accurate based on your academic record.
Thirdly, your housing will be completely unpredictable for your first semester. FYSAs essentially just get thrown into wherever Cornell has space on North campus. Maybe that will change with the new buildings sprouting up, but in my experience, your freshman year housing will be the luck of the draw. I requested a double in a residence hall. I received a single in a Program House. It worked out great—I had a nice room and enjoyed living there. But it definitely wasn’t what I expected. Just bear in mind that you could end up anywhere regardless of what you request.
So, should I enroll or go somewhere else that accepted me for the fall?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but I hope that after hearing from a proud FYSA you know a little bit more about what experience you’ll have if you choose to enroll.
My decision came down to Cornell and one other school. While I initially would have preferred to start in the fall, my heart was set on Cornell because I saw myself fitting in here more than at my other option.
In hindsight, being a FYSA was a good thing for me. Having a semester off before starting my collegiate experience better prepared me to hit the ground running when I arrived in Ithaca. And since I’ve been here, I’ve loved being a Cornellian. Regardless of what you choose, I hope you’ll feel similarly about your college years.
Andrew Lorenzen is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. When We’re Sixty Four runs every other Tuesday this semester.